Epps' double-double sparks surging LSU past Arkansas, 75-54
By KURT VOIGT, AP Sports Writer
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Will Wade talked repeatedly about the potential of the LSU basketball program when he was hired away from VCU after last season.
Even the first-year Tigers coach couldn't have known how quickly LSU would turn that potential into wins.
Led by Aaron Epps' 13 points and 11 rebounds, the surging Tigers continued their recent winning ways on Wednesday night — dominating Arkansas from the outset in a 75-54 victory.
The victory is the fifth in the last six games for LSU (11-4, 2-1 Southeastern Conference), which narrowly lost to No. 21 Kentucky and also won at Texas A&M last week. More importantly, it gave the Tigers more wins than they had all of last season — when they finished 10-21 in their last season before Wade's hiring.
"That was about as well as we can play," Wade said. "... We were just hoping to come in here and hang around and keep it close and give ourselves an opportunity there at the end. Obviously, things kind of snowballed and it was our night tonight."
Four players scored in double figures for LSU, with Randy Onwuasor and Skylar Mays finishing with 12 points each and Duop Reath adding 11. The Tigers led by as many as 24 points in the first half and shot 52.7 percent (29 of 55) in the win.
Epps was a part of LSU struggles last season, and he continued to show improvement right along with the Tigers — earning his third double-double of the season. The senior finished 5 of 7 from the field and is now shooting 24 of 39 (61.5 percent) over his last five games.
"(The turnaround) feels great," Epps said. "We've definitely put the work in, and I'm just happy that we've been winning games."
Jaylen Barford had 17 points to lead the Razorbacks (11-5, 1-3), who have lost three straight games after reaching No. 22 in The Associated Press poll a week ago. Barford was 6 of 15 from the field and the only Arkansas player to score in double figures.
Arkansas entered the game leading the SEC with an average of 88.5 points per game, but it trailed 41-21 at halftime and never threatened in the second half.
The Razorbacks closed to within 12 points on a jumper by C.J. Jones that cut LSU's lead to 55-43 with 10:42 remaining, but the Tigers quickly stretched their lead back to 23 points and as many as 27 in front of the stunned crowd in Bud Walton Arena — where Arkansas lost for the first time this season.
"They came in, and I thought they caught us real flat," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "... It was one of those nights, and when you shoot 18 percent from the field (in the first half), you're going to get these kind of results."
LSU: Tremont Waters entered the game having already earned the SEC Freshman of the Week honors twice this season, including last week. The 5-foot-11, 167-pound point guard, who leads the league in assists with an average of 6 per game, lived up to his many accolades on Wednesday — finishing with eight points, eight assists and five rebounds for the Tigers.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks played their worst half of the season to open the game, shooting just 6 of 33 (18.2 percent) from the field and trailing by as many 24 points before settling for a 41-21 halftime deficit. The 21 points were a season-worst in a half for Arkansas, which shot a season-worst 33.3 percent (19 of 57) overall.
LSU returns home to host Alabama on Saturday.
The suddenly reeling Razorbacks host Missouri on Saturday.
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Follow Kurt Voigt on Twitter at @Kurt_Voigt_AP